If you want to deliver joy to an older friend, neighbor or loved one, the gift of your time will be appreciated most.
June 30, 2021, was celebrated as the National Day of Joy, which is held annually the last Wednesday of June. According to Comfort Keepers, who registered this day with the National Day Archives, “No matter how old you are, finding joy in even the simplest everyday moments is scientifically proven to help improve and maintain overall wellness, including physical and mental health.”
To celebrate locally, I accompanied a co-worker as teams of Comfort Keepers staff visited clients at their homes to deliver joy. Well, actually, we were delivering African Violets, but little did I know that our visits were going to be so impactful!
African Violets are a sentimental plant to the older generation. When folks opened the door they smiled to see visitors, but their facial expression softened as they recognized the plant which rekindled fond memories. Many of the folks we visited told stories of their mothers raising violets from “slips” taken from other plants and displaying a full windowsill abloom with them. Several people were proud to show us their own prized African Violets that they had been tending for more than 10 years! If you want to kick up some nostalgia, African Violets are a sure winner!
After finding new homes for the plants, many of those we visited invited us to sit down and stay to chat a while. This seemed to be what brought them the most joy: the gift of time and conversation!
Seated around a kitchen table you can learn quite a bit from a senior. One lady was trying to decipher a letter she received from her phone company and was annoyed that they sent such a confusing communication. A Wyomissing lady told us she had been out in the flower beds working from 5 to 9 a.m. to beat the heat and that her neighbor, who she appreciates, regularly checks in on her and reminds her to take care of herself. Another woman told us that she was grateful for our visit, as we were the only visitors she had all day. The husband of a spouse, challenged with aphasia, told us that our visit was “a good distraction” in his day.
The highlight of all stories, though, was from a 90-some-year-old woman from Robesonia. She and her caregiver were going through old photographs when we arrived. She was sharing stories of her childhood in Reading where her father raised alligators in the basement. You read that right! They raised alligators in the basement of their Reading home and she had pictures to prove it.
As if it were commonplace, she told us how the alligators would sometimes come up the cellar steps to go out in the back yard. She said that she believes they were “coming toward the light.” Given that she was in her early 90s, these days of raising alligators must have been back in the early 1930s. We were glad to learn that, to the best of her knowledge, the alligators were donated to a zoo near Philadelphia when they fully matured.
One woman had unexpected wisdom to share. After chatting about the children of her Mennonite neighbors who raise dogs and her son who brings her weekly groceries and does her yardwork, I asked if I could take her picture with her caregiver. She hesitated for a moment and looked herself over, then said, “Why not?” So she stood to pose and lovingly looked up at her caregiver by her side. While I thought she might turn to face the camera, she didn’t. Afterwards she remarked, “A side profile is always more becoming!”
Any day is a good day to deliver joy! All it takes is a little time shared with a senior to brighten their day and yours!